By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Officials in Cameroon are reviewing the use of the AstraZeneca Vaccine after the country was set to receive the first dose of the vaccine this week against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The review was submitted by Cameroon’s Minister of Public Health Dr Manaouda Malachie after a flurry of suspensions of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
In a tweet on March 12, Dr Manaouda Malachie stated: “As the side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to be debated, I would like to make it clear that I have submitted the matter to the Scientific Council and NITAG for advice. The expectation is that we will not use this vaccine while there are still doubts about its effects.”
On March 6, 2021, the Minister of Public Health had announced that the country would be receiving the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines in two weeks. “… the priority targets for vaccination against COVID will be health workers; people over fifty years old with comorbidity and existing conditions, vulnerable people; teachers; special groups and the general public,” Minister Manaouda Malachie tweeted on March 6.
The decision from Cameroon follows that of other countries that have opted to suspend the use of the vaccine. Sweden and Latvia joined a fast-growing list of European countries suspending the use of the vaccine as a precautionary measure following reports of blood clots. Germany, France, Italy and Spain said they would all stop administering the shot.
According to the World Health Organization, the AstraZeneCa vaccine against COVID-19, also known as AZD1222 “has an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Longer dose intervals within the 8 to 12 weeks range are associated with greater vaccine efficacy”.
Dr Shalom NDOULA, Permanent Secretary of Expanded Program on Immunization in the Ministry of Public Health had attested to the effectiveness of the vaccine. “The effectiveness of AstraZeneCa has been shown by many studies. From clinical trials, AstraZeneca has shown the effectiveness of about 70%, and more than 89% in preventing severe forms of the virus and death.
“The data from Scotland also shows an effect in reducing new cases of COVID-19 when the vaccination coverage is beyond a certain percentage,” She said as reported by CRTV on March 11.
The World Health Organization, Europe’s drug regulator and the International Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis have all recommended that countries continue to use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The decisions by France, Germany and other countries look baffling,” said Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, U.K, according to CNBC.
“The data we have suggests that numbers of adverse events related to blood clots are the same (and possibly, in fact, lower) in vaccinated groups compared to unvaccinated populations,” he continued.
It should be recalled that the vaccine (whichever one will be selected) is not mandatory for the Cameroonian population. With an increase in COVID-19 cases in the country as days go by inhabitants have been urged to scrupulously respect the barrier measures that have been put in place.
As of March 16, the country counts 40,622 confirmed cases with 35,261 recovered. There have been 601 deaths recorded since the first confirmed case was recorded in the country in March 2020.